Apr 15, 2020

4 Ways Businesses Must Change to Serve the New Post-COVID-19 Customer

Andrew Warden

Andrew Warden

4 Ways Businesses Must Change to Serve the New Post-COVID-19 Customer

Although many of the seeming constants of our current environment are changing, we are still in the age of the customer, as Forrester put it in 2011. But that customer is changing and changing rapidly. They’ve already experienced significant disruption in their buying power with consumer spending down 25% since the beginning of March as recorded by Facteus. J.D. Power reports that two out of three U.S. adults say they are “somewhat” or “very” worried the coronavirus will hurt their finances.

It’s not just spending behaviors that are changing. Our colleagues at sparks & honey used their Q platform to reveal that new consumer behaviors are emerging. They’ve found six changes that will more than likely transform the way we all behave post-COVID-19.

  1. Health: Move from a reactive approach to proactive engagement with health and wellness.

  2. Education: Move from an institution-based model to an anywhere and anytime mindset.

  3. Relationship: Move from many superficial relationships with ambiguous value to focus on enriching ones with clear value.

  4. Work-Business: Move from hierarchy, silos, and complexity to flatter and adaptive organizations with the ability to pivot quickly.

  5. Connectivity: Move from a ‘why do this online?’ perspective to a ‘why do this in-person?’ viewpoint.

  6. Information: Move from an ecosystem where we’re all experts and influencers to a focus on the importance of science, concrete facts, and legitimate expertise.

But after the virus, consumers will either go back to their old behaviors or adopt new ones. Companies that can reintroduce themselves during this transition may capture new customers and even regain old ones. We’ve made four recommendations for how businesses in a post-COVID-19 world can change the way they serve customers to better cater to new consumer behavior.

4 Ways Businesses Must Change to Serve the Post-COVID-19 Customer

1. Focus on New Customer Segments

This could almost go without saying, but your customers no longer fit into whatever customer journey map or user story you had created pre-coronavirus. Put yourself back into your customer’s shoes and re-segment your audience. Don’t make the mistake of messaging the same way to someone who used to have plenty of discretionary income but is now one of the over half of Americans who have already had a negative impact on their household income because of the coronavirus outbreak.

An interesting example of finding a new customer segment is the many local restaurants who have started selling produce to customers instead of regular meals. This provides revenue both for the restaurant and the restaurant’s suppliers.

2. Remember Vulnerability is the New Black

During the crisis many organizations have struggled between providing valuable information and adding to the noise with their customer communications. What works? Authenticity and vulnerability. Even the CEO of Perdue Chicken took to the airwaves with a selfie-style video that thanked workers in the food industry.

People will have grown accustomed to the humanness that was displayed by corporations and individuals alike during the outbreak. Organizations who continue this messaging will find new loyalty and even new customers post-COVID-19.

3. Consider the Price Conscious Consumer

Yes, people will be ready to get out the house, but we can’t ignore the financial challenges that many will be facing. With some predicting unemployment rates to be up to 15% by the second half of the year, consumers will most likely find themselves sticking to essentials. Consider creating new products that cater to the new, value-focused consumer.

4. Go Digital First

As customers were forced to go digital first (and only) during the COVID-19 outbreak, organizations have gained interesting data and focused solely on their digital channels. The “why do this in person” behavior shift required organizations to shore up ecommerce platforms and digital advertising. Even in the first innings of the COVID-19 state of emergency, some reported a 40% rise in ecommerce. Leverage the data created on the increased online traffic to create new service offerings or keep those customers while finding ways to bring them into your other channels.

Looking Forward

With the behavior shifts and varied product offerings that come with them, reconsider your companies’ and each product’s value proposition. Remember that many companies are in the same situation you are. What makes you different from other companies who are providing the same type of new product? Create those distinctions and keep the new customer in mind when communicating—be honest, be transparent. Your new customer will love you for it.

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